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15 May, 2023 15:00

Vice files for bankruptcy

The news giant was once valued at $5.7 billion, but will now be sold to its creditors for a fraction of that sum
Vice files for bankruptcy

Vice Media has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and will likely be acquired by Fortress Investment Group and billionaire financier George Soros’ hedge fund. Vice’s raunchy and irreverent content endeared it to millennial audiences, but critics have ridiculed the outlet for degenerating into a “woke” parody of itself in recent years.

Vice Media LLC submitted its filing on Monday, according to Motherboard, the company’s tech-focused news site. 

Soros Fund Management and the New York-based Fortress Investment Group have already submitted a bid to buy the company out for $225 million, the New York Times reported. According to the bankruptcy filing published by Motherboard, Vice Media already owes Fortress nearly $476 million, meaning Vice will not see a penny from the acquisition, and the company will inherit significant debts after the sale.

These debts include $20 million to the founders of Pulse Films, which was acquired by Vice last year, $3.8 million to CNN, and more than $500,000 to ConEdison for utility bills.

From humble beginnings as a pop-culture and art magazine in Montreal in the early 1990s, Vice grew into a media empire. Vice’s documentaries – in which founder Shane Smith journeyed into North Korea and Liberia – became hits on YouTube, and in the 2010s, the company bet heavily on growing its predominantly millennial audience through social media engagement. 

Vice’s readership exploded, and Vice Media launched its own TV channel, film company, ad agency, and more than a dozen online news sites. Vice wallowed in funding from the likes of Disney and 21st Century Fox during the 2010s, and was valued at $5.7 billion by private equity firm TPG in 2017.

However, Vice struggled to convert clicks and views into cash, and its left-wing politics and focus on gender and racial issues in recent years have made it the butt of jokes among conservatives and disaffected former liberals.

“Go woke, go [broke]” Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted when news of Vice’s impending bankruptcy surfaced earlier this month. “It’s been a while since they made quality content,” the billionaire added, sharing a link to a Vice documentary on bestiality in rural Colombia.

Vice Media closed down its Vice World News brand last month, stating that the move was dictated by “market realities.” Vice World News was not the only millennial-focused digital news site to shut its doors in April, with Buzzfeed closing its news division a week earlier.